Republicans Reproach Obama for Delays in Submitting Job-Creating Free Trade Deals

By Penny Starr | September 8, 2011 | 7:03 PM EDT

President Obama discussed the free trade agreement with South Korea with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Myung-bak, in Seoul on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( – President Obama has repeatedly called on lawmakers to approve free trade agreements, but has yet to send any to Congress for consideration, senior Republicans noted Thursday.

GOP lawmakers made the observation during back-to-back press conferences held ahead of the president’s “jobs” speech on Thursday night.

During Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 26, for instance, he called for a doubling of U.S. exports by 2014 and touted trade agreements the U.S. has signed with China and India.

“And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs,” Obama said at the time. “This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans – and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.”

Republicans at the press conferences pointed out that Obama has yet to submit either the Korean free trade agreement (FTA) or two others with Columbia and Panama, to Congress to enable the ratification process to take place.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said at a press conference on Sept. 8, 2011 that President Obama has yet to send any of three negotiated free trade agreements to Congress for ratification. ( Starr)

“The president could send the three trade agreements that have literally been on his desk since the day he took office,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said at one of the press conferences, which focused on what lawmakers want to hear in Obama’s speech.

“In our state of Tennessee alone it would permit us to sell auto parts and things that we grow around the world, adding thousands of jobs and millions of dollars,” he added.

At an earlier media conference, held by the House and Senate Western Caucus in support of legislation members claim will create jobs, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Obama began advocating FTAs in his first Capitol Hill address as president.

“Two and a half years ago, in his first address to the Congress, the president of the United States advocated ratification of trade agreements with Korea – South Korea – Columbia and Panama,” McCain said. “The president has yet to submit these trade agreements to the Congress of the United States for ratification.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called it 'remarkable' that President Obama has not submitted the FTAs to Congress. ( Starr)

McCain called it “remarkable” that Obama has yet to submit agreements which, he said, the U.S. Farm Bureau has estimated could infuse $2.5 billion into the U.S. economy.

Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) said he hoped Obama would bring the FTAs with him when he addresses a joint session of Congress tonight, and so expedite the ratification process.

“I’m hoping that he’ll bring with him the three free trade agreements for Korea, Columbia and Panama and submit them so that we can vote on them up here in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives,” Hatch said. “Should we pass those free trade agreements that would create upwards of 250,000 new jobs.”

“I can’t for the life of me understand why this has gone on and on and on for this long,” he added.

In his 2011 State of the Union, Obama said putting the agreements in place is in keeping with the campaign pledges he made while running for the White House.

“Before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs,” Obama said.

“That's what we did with Korea, and that's what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.”

At both press conferences Thursday, Republicans said the key to economic recovery and job creation is lower taxes, fewer government regulations, and the development of domestic energy resources.

At the Western Caucus press conference, members released a report detailing almost 40 legislative measures they argued would accomplish those goals.

“Our ‘Jobs Frontier’ report contains answers to many of Washington’s problems,” caucus chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a statement. “Our plan will cut red tape, develop energy and create jobs in the West and across America.”

“Our bills are ready,” Barrasso said. “We just need a willing partner in the White House.”